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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Ouija Shark, or: Exit, Pursued by Ghost Shark

So bad it’s good or so bad it’s…bad? It’s a fine line to walk in B-movie land, and an extremely subjective one.

Except when it’s not. No spoilers (yet), but this week’s film is called Ouija Shark. And I’m guessing there aren’t a whole lot of people in the world who consider it a masterpiece of modern filmmaking.

The Film:

Ouija Shark

The Premise:

After summoning the angry spirit of a shark, a group of teens struggle to stay alive long enough to defeat the creature.

The Ramble:

Young Jill is looking forward to a weekend chilling at the pool with seemingly her only friend, Kim. At least, I think it’s Kim. The character names I remember from this film are as follows: 1. Jill.

However, due to her friend’s horrible directions, Jill ends up at a secluded beach. Rather than imagine she may have ended up at the wrong location, Jill jumps into the water for a splash…and emerges with a mysterious Ouija board floating beside her. Obviously she takes the board with her. Obviously.

When Jill finally meets up with Kim and a group of friends housesitting, it seems Jill is something of the odd one out. It doesn’t take long for shared interests to unite the group: daydrinking and lounging around the backyard pool. In a subplot that has little (i.e. zero) relevance, one of the girls takes an interest in the neighbor washing his car and disappears for most of the film’s proceedings.

Meanwhile, the other girls have found it necessary to pace themselves on the daydrinking, shifting gears a bit to bring out the Ouija board. Though most of the group is skeptical, it takes only a few questions about the spirit’s intentions for the girls to be properly creeped out.

Jill later realizes she may have taken things a step too far with the summoning spirits thing when she has a shark-themed nightmare. After calling her dad, he solemnly vows to look into the shark dream and let her know if it’s connected to the Ouija board spirit. To his credit, he actually does do research on this ranging from internet searches to tarot readings, and even consults a medium about it. And, I mean, I’m sure mediums have gotten some odd requests, but communing with the spirit of a shark must be one of the more extreme.

Things escalate pretty quickly from here, with people falling victim to the ghost shark left and right. As the girls fail to make proper use of the buddy system, the shark…eats them? De-materializes them? There’s a lot of murder but very little blood is all I’m saying.

As the police get involved with the disappearances, Jill’s father offers the sage(?) advice that she must stop denying her family’s history with the occult(?) and find the original owner of the Ouija board(???). You know that, whatever happens, Jill means business as she gets a black leather wardrobe change and acquires a shotgun. But, even when dressed in significantly more badass attire, does she stand a chance against a rather poorly defined spirit shark?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

That’s being generous, honestly. This film is extremely low budget, and it shows in everything from the script, pacing, sound/picture quality, acting, to the special effects. A nonsense plot only becomes more absurd as the film goes on. Mercifully, this film’s runtime is just over an hour.

I can’t really say this is so bad it’s good, but I will give the film some credit. I appreciate when people do make truly small budget indie films, especially given that the landscape for anyone not making a blockbuster looks so tough at the moment. The setup here is not the worst, and could have actually been reasonably interesting with better characterization and exposition. It’s nice to see something unpolished, including a cast that appears to all be wearing whatever they already had in their wardrobe.

While none of the cast here are getting award nominations, I have a special place in my heart for the performance of Jill’s dad onscreen. I get the impression that he’s the parent of one of the filmmakers and only appeared as a favor to his child. Legitimately, I did enjoy some elements of his scenes with the medium and the ghost shark.

One thing I overanalyzed: if you got eaten/dematerialized by a ghost shark, would you ever be declared legally dead or just missing forever? Would people keep looking for you? And would shitty insurance companies use the absence of a dead body as a reason not to pay out any kind of accidental death payment to your loved ones?

Chilling, right?

Finally, because I collect bad movie dialogue, here are some highlights:

  • “Dreams can be a doorway to the unconscious mind; I’ve told you that before.”
  • “Is that a shark or a ghost?”
  • “Thank god [the shark]’s going after him first.”
  • “Why would anyone want to summon a shark?”
  • “It’s unnaturally cold.”
  • “Oh no, I’m dead!”
  • “I’ve got to use my occult training. Mystic shield!”

Would my blog wife summon this one with a Ouija board or track it down, armed with a shotgun she casually keeps in her car (at all times apparently)? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Grease 2, or: Go Back to High School

Given this month is dedicated to good/bad B-movies, the time feels right to revisit another…classic? Though not one of my favorites, will a rewatch help change my tune, especially considering the intricately choreographed musical sequences and rather ’80s interpretations of early ’60s fashions?

The Film:

Grease 2

The Premise:

When English exchange student Michael falls for Pink Lady Stephanie, he adopts an alter ego as a cool biker to impress her.

The Ramble:

The gang’s all here for a sequel to the hit musical! If the characters from Grease you’re most invested in seeing again are Frenchy, Principal McGee and the secretary, the football coach, that one really dweeby guy, and the rival Scorpions gang member who’s an asshole for no reason.

Everyone else who’s back to school makes up an entirely new senior class, from the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds to the jocks and cheerleaders, and everyone in between. Geeky English import Michael has the misfortune to be the new kid just in time for senior year, though the recently reenrolled Frenchy has got his back. After all, Michael is cousin to Rydell High icon Sandy, who apparently had great things to say about the school? I guess if your high school experience ended with a literal ride in a flying car, you might look back fondly.

Michael, a teenager with hair styled in a pompadour, leans against a fence. On the other side of the fence, Frenchy, a young woman wearing a pink jacket, follows his gaze to an offscreen Stephanie.

I guess because he’s polite and wears sweaters frequently, Michael is immediately labelled a nerd and is bullied by the T-Birds. When Pink Ladies leader Stephanie checks on the new kid after an incident, he’s smitten. Unfortunately for Michael, independent Stephanie has recently broken up with T-Birds leader Johnny and will (famously) settle for nothing less than a cool rider. Also, it’s apparently a critically important rule that Pink Ladies only date T-Birds–so important that it never came up once in the first film.

Johnny, a teen with slicked-back hair and a black leather jacket, leans an arm against a wall close to Stephanie, a blonde teen wearing a pink jacket. He smiles, while she looks irritated.

After an innuendo-laden song about bowling, Stephanie is determined to demonstrate her freedom from Johnny, who has yet to accept their breakup. Boldly declaring she will kiss the next guy who walks in, Stephanie locks lips with Michael. Now (hopelessly) devoted to Stephanie, Michael vows to do everything in his power to join the T-Birds and become the man of her dreams. Too bad he’s just made a mortal enemy of Johnny and doesn’t know the first thing about motorcycles.

Making use of his nerdy reputation, Michael begins to write essays for his peers in exchange for cash. Eventually, Michael earns enough money to buy a fixer-upper bike and somehow learn to ride so well that he can do a motherfucking sidekick while driving by Scorpion leader Craterface just in time to save one of the lesser T-Birds from a rumble. Stephanie is extremely into this, especially when the mysterious cool rider eludes the cops and returns just in time to light her cigarette. Even as she proclaims her love to the unknown biker (after they’ve spent maybe half of a day together), she’s utterly uninterested in real life Michael.

Against the backdrop of an orange sunset, Stephanie leans close to Michael. He rests against a motorcycle, wearing all black leather and a dark helmet and goggles.

Meanwhile, the school talent show is on everyone’s mind, largely because the entire student body seems to be involved. Logically, the winners of the talent show will be crowned king and queen of the end of year luau, so the stakes are high. Stephanie’s main interest in the show is the opportunity to see her cool rider again. However, things take an unexpectedly tragic turn when the T-Birds chase off the biker, who takes a plunge from a cliff. Convinced she’s lost her love before even knowing his name, will Stephanie somehow see the mystery man of her dreams at the talent show, maybe in a dance sequence that’s not quite on the level of “Beauty School Dropout?”

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I enjoyed this a lot more than I remembered, but I’d still say the magic wasn’t quite there for me. Watching the sequel to Grease makes it even more apparent that the original musical/film was leaning so hard on its catchy AF soundtrack. There are a couple of reasonably memorable songs here, but they don’t hold a candle (or a lighter) to the first film’s songs.

Wisely, the film does get us the closest we will likely ever get to a Rizzo-centered sequel. Stephanie is very much a Rizzo type, living by her own rules and taking shit from no one. She’s such a feminist icon, dismissing the idea that she exists to be someone’s trophy. On the other hand, the Pink Ladies in this film don’t feel as much like a ride or die crew as those in the first film. We don’t get many of the bonding scenes that we did in Grease, and honestly the original one probably passes the Bechdel test more comfortably.

For better or worse, the comedy is played up here. Some of it falls flat, but we do get a more clear-cut criticism of the T-Birds and their ludicrous macho posturing. Johnny almost always looks like a complete tool, and the rest of the T-Birds are approximately on par.

I did make an intentional effort not to over-analyze this film, but the plot is stretched too thin to make much sense. The talent show gets almost an entire 30 mins–there’s that little going on here. And I feel even less of an understanding of motorcycle gangs as a result of this film. What is even the point of a motorcycle gang? Is it to be a man in your mid-30s (at a minimum) who exists solely to laugh intimidatingly and ruin teenagers’ parties? Because that’s the only thing the Scorpions do.

I will give credit to this film for the nonsensical but momentous return of Michael at the luau (though the luau itself is pretty cringey). I wish the rest of the film had been on the same melodramatic level, but I found most other facets not quite absurd enough to get invested in. On a side note, I don’t understand why the fuck Michael still wants to be a T-Bird by the end of the film, especially when Johnny and his friends psychotically pursued him to the point that they believed they were responsible for his murder (or at least manslaughter). If it had been me in Michael’s situation, I would have very quickly become a horror movie villain.

Possibly my favorite element of the entire film is that people treat Michael like he’s a complete alien who doesn’t know how to relate to people…all because he’s English. Obviously one of the more realistic plot points.

Would my blog wife buy a motorcycle to impress this one or shrug off its leather jacket with disdain? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tammy and the T-Rex, or: My Friend’s Brain Is in That Dinosaur!

Over the course of 6+ years of the Blog Collab(!), we’ve watched quite a few really great films that I’m so pleased have come across my radar. As much as I’ve enjoyed these, we tend to have a lot more fun with the Collab when our films are about as far from critical and commercial success as it’s possible to be and still get a movie produced. I’m thrilled to say this month is all about luxuriating in that campy, trashy, B-movie world that we would live in, without hesitation, if we could. And we’re kicking things off with a robot T-Rex brain swap.

The Film:

Tammy and the T-Rex

The Premise:

After an attack leaves her boyfriend in a coma, teenager Tammy is reunited with him…when mad scientists transfer his brain to a robotic T-Rex’s body.

The Ramble:

Tammy (Denise Richards) is a cheerleader who is happily dating her dream guy Michael, a very young Paul Walker who wears cut-off sweatshirts and bites the heads off of flowers. Not a euphemism. Though her best friend Byron wholeheartedly approves, Tammy cuts short the romance when she believes Michael is in danger from her unhinged ex, Billy. Spoiler alert: she’s not wrong.

Tammy, a teen with dark blonde hair, smiles as she introduces her boyfriend Michael, a tall white boy muddied from football practice, to her friend Byron, a black teen wearing colorful African-inspired garb.

Perhaps a minor grievance compared to…virtually every other plot element, but I find it so difficult to believe that there’s never been an intervention for Billy or a string of arrests when he is an actual gang leader whom other teens refer to as “boss” and fully grown adults are legitimately terrified of him. But that’s what we’re led to believe, at least until Billy, who still considers Tammy his girlfriend, picks a fight with Michael. Apparently the cops are clued in enough to realize Billy exhibits all of the tendencies of a spousal murderer, so he’s the one arrested when they break up the fight. However, Billy vows revenge against Michael. Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, in a mad science lab…mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein and his assistant Helga scheme to bring a robotic T-Rex to life. For murky reasons related to investors, and I guess what else do you do as a mad scientist. Though brainy henchman Bobby insists he can build a computer powerful enough to drive the machine, the doctor has his own plans in mind to acquire a human brain for his invention.

Guess who may be about to get another chance at life as a robotic dinosaur? After Billy learns that Michael has sneaked into Tammy’s bedroom at night, he furiously marches over to catch them in the act. Tammy encourages Michael to flee, but it’s not long before Billy and his actual gang of teens ok with being accomplices to murder catch up. When they dump a beaten Michael in a wildlife park that has the lowest number of security measures ever, he’s severely mauled and is comatose in the hospital.

In a hospital room, Tammy leans over Michael, who is comatose. Byron stands in the background, looking upset, while Michael's uncle sleeps in a chair against the wall.

As Tammy mourns, Byron is a suitably supportive best friend. Because both teens are quite naive, they’re easily manipulated by cartoonishly evil Dr. W. and Helga. The doctor declares Michael legally dead, stealing the body for a truly gruesome brain extraction. Apparently powering your robot dinosaur with a human brain is the easy part, as it’s not long before the Michael dino is awake, chomping henchmen left and right after the trauma of seeing his own dead body without a scalp. Surprisingly, Michael is pretty quick to connect the dots and realize that his brain is now powering a robot T-Rex body, even mastering dialing a pay phone with relative ease.

Dr. Wachenstein dressed as a surgeon prepares to remove a deceased Michael's skull along a bloody perforation. Helga assists, dressed in scrubs.

It’s not long before Michael’s goals become apparent: 1) find Tammy and 2) seek revenge. Not necessarily in that order. Michael crashes a high school party and does his fair share of chomping. When a frantic Byron is spared, he is mystified but doesn’t complain too much. His father, the sheriff, investigates the carnage at the party, disbelieving the multiple witnesses who claim the culprit is an actual T-Rex. Honestly, this is one of the only plot elements I accept as realistic.

Sitting against the wall of a barn, Tammy huddles in fear as a robotic T-Rex offers a yellow rose to her.

Since Michael has found revenge on the teens responsible for his murder, he visits Tammy, who is understandably petrified. I presume because their love is so true, their soul connection all too real, it’s not long before Tammy realizes the dinosaur is none other than her beloved Michael in a different body. Rather than question her sanity like a normal person, she schemes with Byron to steal Michael’s body to return him to his true form. But if there’s anything Team Mad Science has, it’s schemes of their own. Who will survive…and in which body?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Whoa–there’s a lot packed into this film’s short runtime. As a work of B comedy/horror, it largely succeeds. There is certainly a lot of humor that misses the mark (believe we’ll get into that), but the silly premise works. I legitimately got a lot of laughs from the Dr. Wachenstein character and Helga, who couldn’t be more transparently evil and out of place, yet the vast majority of characters have a straight-faced reaction to them.

While the plot mostly makes no sense, the film’s oddness kept me engaged; I was certainly never bored. For what initially feels like a breezy ’90s teen comedy, there is a lot of gore, along with some extremely unconvincing special effects–though that’s a large part of the charm here.

Not so charming: all of the homophobic jokes at Byron’s expense. Though he is something of a stereotype, I found him more of a fleshed out character than expected. But of course we can’t just let that stand; there has to be a ton of ridicule to go along with that, and very much the kind of tone that suggests the audience is meant to find all of this hilarious. I hoped after the first couple of times we could move on, but the two comic relief(?) cops frequently made truly awful jokes about Byron, and it was pretty difficult to move past those at times.

If you can get past that–and I recognize that’s a pretty big if–I can’t deny that I enjoyed the ludicrous, camp, and frequently grotesque experience of watching this film. I will likely lay on my deathbed with the awful dialogue still echoing in my brain, but I’m not even that mad about it, honestly.

Would my blog wife bring this one back as a T-Rex or shut down its evil plan before it could even locate a bone saw? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Spontaneous, or: Let’s Blow This Popsicle Stand

*Spoilers follow*

Another week, another group of teens facing nightmarish pseudo-apocalyptic scenarios. Mob rule? Trolls referred to only as goblins? This week, the worst horror anyone will encounter is the inner self. More specifically, the inner self very literally and suddenly becoming external.

The Film:

Spontaneous

The Ramble:

Drifting off during an especially dull class lecture, senior Mara Carlyle is in for a rude awakening when a classmate explodes before her very eyes. Not in the metaphorical sense; the girl sitting before her is human-shaped in one moment, a mere spatter of blood and guts the next.

Mara, a teen with wavy blonde hair, looks stunned as she sits in class. Behind her, students sit at desks looking horrified as they and the walls behind them are covered in blood.

After the incident, all of the students are rounded up for questioning and observation. Unbeknownst to Mara, her dry remark that the authorities are waiting for a similar accident to happen again is extremely prescient. Not only that, but her words act as a spark for her classmates to live life to the fullest as they face the dread of wondering who may be next.

Following the explosion, Mara navigates her feelings (badly) with bff Tess–making sarcastic cracks at various tributes to their classmate, lacing her coffee with a nausea-inducing amount of shrooms. While Mara decides seizing the day means making self-destructive decisions, classmate Dylan determines now could be the only opportunity to reveal his long-term crush on her. Holding back Mara’s hair while she throws up, their romance is off to a…dreamy(?) start.

In a diner booth, teenager Mara sits across from her friend Tess, a Black teen with natural hair. Both have coffee cups in front of them.

As Mara gets to know Dylan better, the unexpected explosions of their classmates seem to happen everywhere they go, from football games to parties. While school is cancelled, Dylan buys a vintage milk truck with his college savings and he officially becomes Mara’s boyfriend.

However, the explosions escalate, prompting the government to intervene by developing a new drug to cure the so-called Covington Curse. After weeks in a pop-up biomedical research facility, the cure seems to be available at last: a pill that all of the teens seem to be destined to take for the rest of their lives.

At the end of a driveway at night, Mara sits next to Dylan, a teen with shoulder-length hair. Dylan smiles at Mara, who is starting to smile.

It might be a nice conclusion for our main characters if things ended here, no? Sadly, the new pill isn’t quite as effective as promised, and it’s not long before another series of explosions rock the community.

How many more teens will blow up before they even make it to graduation?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’ve kept things vague as there are a number of important plot twists/tonal shifts (which you could easily look up) that I’m reluctant to dish on here. I can’t say they’re entirely unexpected, but they may not be where you imagine the film to go when you first dive in.

I like the premise here a lot, and the approach the film takes to examining the impact of the explosions rather than trying to unpack a reason why lends it some realism. I appreciate that we don’t get a satisfactory explanation for the explosions, though they could stand in for any number of existential issues teens struggle with as they try to imagine a future that’s not utterly terrifying. It’s powerful as well that so many of the teens blame themselves for these events that are beyond their control.

Mara’s sarcastic eye-rolling is immediately relatable, and she is very darkly funny. Her observations about the choice of “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” to memorialize a classmate, as well as the dramatic peeling away of part of a stick figure family member car decal stand out most to me. However, after a while, Mara seems to be written as a character who is not especially feminist; she’s meant to be a cool girl who’s so chill that she would never stoop to calling you out for a “your mom” joke. There are a number of attitudes/lines of dialogue that seem written for a teen boy, or at the very least someone who claims to be a humanist rather than a feminist.

Overall, the characterization isn’t a strength of this film. The supporting characters are completely flat; it drives me nuts that Tess isn’t given anything to do except be the best friend who is immediately sidelined for a romantic plot (and the romance is a major focus of the film). There are some additional layers to unpack there considering Tess is the only person of color who gets a significant amount of screen time. And Dylan is a total sweetheart, but it’s irritating that he’s written to be a character who has absolutely no flaws. I’m automatically suspicious of a dude who seems perfect from the beginning.

There are some issues with tone here too, as the story struggles to blend Mara’s cynical sarcasm, the romance of first love, and the existential horror of living through disaster. It’s surprisingly poignant as things wrap up, but it doesn’t quite bring the different elements together smoothly.

That being said, I did enjoy this one quite a lot…and I’m never going to be mad about watching a film that on multiple occasions tells our most recent former US president to fuck off.

Would my blog wife peel off a stick figure family decal in this one’s honor or vindictively hope she’s around so see it spontaneously explode? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Assassination Nation, or: Witches Get Shit Done

CW: violence, assault, homophobia, transphobia

Ah, youth. Dishing on the latest gossip, lounging by the pool, receiving menacing texts threatening to doxx you. There’s a good reason social media has become an increasingly popular subject for horror films: it’s fucking terrifying. And in this week’s film, it has the power to send a homicidal mob after you IRL.

The Film:

Assassination Nation

The Premise:

Following a hacker’s leak of personal messages and information, the residents of an entire town turn against 4 teen girls who seem to be at the center of it all.

The Ramble:

Let’s revisit a familiar chapter in US history: the time the town of Salem lost its fucking mind. No, not that time. This time, it’s all a case of leaked personal messages and the good old-fashioned scramble to cover one’s own ass.

To rewind a tiny bit to the before times, teen Lily is part of a close-knit group of friends: Bex, Sarah, and Em. Catching up with her girl gang, Lily learns that Bex has been sexting with Diamond, a gorgeous jock who dares not acknowledge his affection in public. Meanwhile, Lily continues to date her first “serious” boyfriend, Mark, while secretly sexting a man only known as Daddy. Sounds like a keeper.

A group of 5 teen girls lay in a circle on the floor, heads together at the center.

At the same time, an unknown hacker begins targeting the locals. The hacker begins by targeting the mayor, a man whose homophobic policies belie his hidden life hiring male escorts and wearing women’s lingerie.

During a high school party, Bex finally hooks up with Diamond, who insists they keep it a secret. At the same party, Lily continues to send revealing pictures of herself to Daddy. Blissfully unaware of the hacker’s intentions, things take a dark turn when the mayor, in lieu of making a verbal statement, opts to shoot himself publicly. Bex, a trans teen girl, has very little sympathy for a man who seemed to make it his life’s work to see LGBTQ people suffer. Unsurprisingly, the internet community has even less compassion, actively ridiculing videos of the public suicide.

Targeted next is the high school principal, whom Lily actually quite likes and respects. Because he has pictures of his 6-year-old daughter in the nude, the town as a whole concludes that Principal Turrell must be a pedophile. As Lily herself points out, there’s nothing overtly sexual about the pictures; nevertheless, Mr. Turrell is booed publicly and encouraged to resign.

4 teen girls lay upside down on a bed, shoulder to shoulder. They are all looking up towards the ceiling and wearing red PVC coats over their clothes.

It’s not long before Lily, Bex, and Nance, the mother of Sarah and Em, are targeted. Police ineffectively search for the hacker but come up with very few leads beyond Marty, a local teen and Anonymous supporter. Diamond hides in shame when the truth about his hook up with Bex is revealed. And it’s not long before Mark realizes that the pictures from Nick, aka Daddy’s, phone are of Lily. Nick is Lily’s 30-something neighbor and man whose kids she used to babysit.

Shortly thereafter, the victims of the hacker turn their ire towards the women and girls who are labelled whores and homewreckers. Of course, it’s their fault that these men engaged in behavior of which they are now ashamed. With no intervention from the FBI or any other authorities, the town begins to implode as isolated incidents of public shame and violence morph into organized militias committing acts of terror.

Dressed in red PVC trench coats, a group of 4 teen girls stand in a row, aiming firearms at an unseen group of boys.

When the police finally have more information, it’s revealed that the hacks seem to have come from Lily’s IP address. With the town turned firmly against her, a militia fueled almost entirely by toxic masculinity arrives at Nance’s house, where all 4 girls are currently staying.

Now that the battle has become girl gang vs. the entire town, who will survive the night?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

There are quite a few things about this film that work, and quite a few that…don’t. Things I enjoy include the commentary on accountability vs. victimization when it comes to the court of public opinion. I think the message here is surprisingly nuanced, highlighting that so-called cancel culture is a tool that can hold people in power to account but can serve to reinforce misogyny and other toxic systems when used against those without. Even I have heard about Chrissy Teigen’s half-hearted apology for her bullying of Courtney Stodden, and the parallels are spot-on, especially considering how Courtney was treated by the press and the public 10 years ago.

Things I didn’t enjoy so much: the cutesy “trigger warning” at the beginning of the film, which seems to merely mock the entire concept. Additionally, despite enjoying our female focus, I couldn’t tell you a single personality trait of any of our main 4, except that Lily was our lead and Bex was cool AF and featured in my favorite scene of the film (a tense underwater nail gun fight). Besides that, the characters are fairly bland and generic.

What’s more is the male gaze at work throughout the film. It’s satisfying to see our girl gang take charge, but there are really only about 10 minutes of their badassery for us to enjoy. For the vast majority of the film, there are a lot of scenes shaming, harassing, torturing, and otherwise attacking women. I would have liked to see less of that and quite a bit more empowerment for the film to better reflect its themes.

That being said, there are many truly terrifying scenes and scenarios here. It’s a little frustrating to have some of these moments undercut with the film’s insistence on making an ironic quip. Perhaps in light of the January Capitol insurrection that feels like 10,000 years ago, the idea of an organized militia targeting anyone who doesn’t have a MAGA hat in their wardrobe doesn’t feel so far-fetched. I would have liked for this one to be a bit more fun, though who knows if I even remember what that word means at this point.

Would my blog wife take this one’s secrets to the grave or leak them all for the lolz? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Troll 2, or: The Family That Summons Together

I’m quite happy to skip most media that reliably generates memes, especially since becoming a meme or a gif seems to be an end unto itself. As loyal readers of this blog know (all…3.5 of you?), your Blog Collab writers are deeply resentful of films like Sharknado that exist exclusively for the social media buzz. So even though I’ve seen Troll 2 appear on its share of top 10 B-movie lists, I’ve largely ignored it since I’ve seen a boatload of memes from the film. I’ve gotten all of the highlights, right?

How wrong I have been.

The Film:

Troll 2

The Premise:

While vacationing in a small, rural town with his family, a boy sees visions of his grandfather warning him of the imminent threat of goblins.

The Ramble:

As far as bedtime stories go, Grandpa Seth spins a yarn that ranges from disturbingly dark to…even darker. Cautioning young Joshua Waits about the very real dangers of goblins, he warns that goblins may disguise themselves and will encourage humans to eat foods that will turn them into edible plant people. The moral of the story is that goblins will fuck you up for no reason–a refreshingly post-modern theme for a children’s tale. Making matters worse, Grandpa Seth has been dead for months, properly freaking out Joshua’s mother as her child continues to have conversations with the man.

A close-up on grandpa Seth shows an elderly man with a beard looking intensely into the distance, a child in pajamas reclined on a bed in the background.

Hoping to enjoy time away together in the countryside, the family is swapping houses for a month to stay in the idyllic small town of Nilbog. (And just in case you didn’t catch it, don’t worry–our film will dramatically reveal the shocking surprise that “Nilbog” is goblin spelled backwards.) Added bonus here? The trip should distract troubled Joshua and remove older sister Holly from the influence of “bad boy” Elliott. As far as a I can tell, Elliott’s reputation comes from the fact that he does nothing but hang around with his friend gang all day. This is a point of contention between Holly and Elliott, and apparently a good reason to throw around some casual homophobia. Our film is from 1990, but it’s still pretty jarring.

Though Holly invites Elliott to vacation with her family, she makes it clear that his friends are not welcome to come along. As it turns out, Elliott and his friends have rented an RV and plan to surprise the Waits family by meeting them in Nilbog.

A group of goblinshuddle over their victim. The goblins are short human-like creatures with white hair covering their faces, large noses, and oversized pointy ears.

When the Waits crew arrive at their vacation home, the family who live there eerily leave without saying a word. However, it’s not long before the Waitses feel at home, especially since there is a delicious (albeit oddly green) meal ready for them to enjoy. Grandpa Seth warns Joshua that the family must not eat the meal, so Joshua devises a disgusting plan to intervene, though points for creativity. Joshua’s father pulls the ultimate “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed” power move with a lecture about how he grew up in poverty legitimately going hungry many nights.

Meanwhile, Elliott’s buddy Arnold, the face that launched 1,000 memes, notices a young woman running through the woods in terror. When goblins catch up to the two, Arnold confidently tells them to get lost, presuming they are a group of costumed weirdos. This seems to pay off initially…until a goblin lobs a spear his way. Fleeing the goblins again, the pair winds up in a creepy church that is now the home of iconic druid queen Creedence. Though it seems Creedence will be an unlikely savior, she in fact has a sinister hidden agenda…oh my GODDDDDDDDDDDD.

Arnold, a teen with blond hair and large glasses, screams with a sweat-soaked face. There is a housefly on his forehead.

The next day, the group of guys and the Waits family are in need of provisions. On the way to the town store, the sheriff offers one of Elliott’s friends a GREEN SANDWICH, which he eats without hesitation. It feels like a major sign of privilege that this dude automatically thinks any food proffered by law enforcement will definitely be safe to consume, even if it’s fucking GREEN. At the shop, the only thing available is special fortified Nilbog milk, which is suspiciously free of cost. The extremely helpful and friendly locals relay a message from Arnold that essentially boils down to “Meet me in the creepy house in the woods.” Sure sounds like Arnold!

Creedence, a woman with dark eye makeup and oversized glasses, gestures dramatically over her shoulder as two worried teens look on.

While in town with his father, Joshua stumbles across a goblin church service, which is sort of a Southern Baptist-inspired gathering with the congregation’s ire focused on eating flesh. Unwittingly drawing attention to himself while snooping, Joshua narrowly misses being force-fed Nilbog ice cream.

That evening, as the goblins tire of biding their time, they hold an impromptu gathering at the vacation home under the guise of folksy smalltown generosity. As Joshua learns, it’s always a good thing to have the spirit of your deceased grandfather around to supply you with Molotov cocktails in case a group of goblins pressures you to choose between a quick death and a slow, violent one.

Will the Waits family manage to defeat the goblin army or will they be reminded that you don’t piss on hospitality?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

A purely subjective rating based on my own personal enjoyment of this film. Is this the well-crafted, moving work of art that is Portrait of a Lady on Fire? God no. Is it going to occupy a similar amount of space in my brain? Probably.

Of course, it’s extremely irritating to have homophobia join the party here. And I don’t completely understand the hostility towards vegetarians that seems to be on display throughout the film. It’s also reasonably distracting that a film with trolls in the title is about…goblins. But overall, I did enjoy this one so much more than anticipated. There’s a good reason this is considered a cult classic.

Once I started watching, I couldn’t look away. Things are obviously extremely low budget, and the acting is as stilted as expected. But it’s actually quite funny (more or less intentionally), and some of the effects are surprisingly gross. It doesn’t hurt that the unsettlingly friendly group of strangers becoming increasingly sinister is one of my favorite horror setups.

I haven’t even really given Creedence her due in this review, as she is truly a legend amongst cult classic villains. She is living my dream life, minus the oddly sexy popcorn scene with an actual teenager. But her unhinged maniacal energy along with her preference for plants over people make me absolutely root for her.

Special mentions to Holly’s extremely ’90s Garfield astrology sleepwear, as well as Grandpa Seth’s odd Orson Welles vibe.

TL;DR: if you don’t like Troll 2, you’re wrong.

Would my goblin queen toast this one with a glass of Nilbog milk or conspire to defeat it with a surprisingly violent spirit guide? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Knife + Heart, or: Crow Me a River

*Spoilers below*

CW: sexual assault

We have good intentions with our themes, we really do. But sometimes, even when you think the innocuous film that’s not too taxing on the brain is what you need, you just have to go with the lesbian director of gay porn struggling to find a masked killer murdering her actors in 1970s Paris. Duh.

The Film:

Knife + Heart

The Premise:

As a masked killer picks off the actors in her gay porn film, director Anne attempts to solve the murders, wrap filming, and impress ex-girlfriend Loïs with her brilliance.

The Ramble:

A director of gay porn in ’70s Paris, Anne is…quite troubled and troubling, frankly. At times a very high-functioning alcoholic, Anne’s reliance on the bottle has finally destroyed her long-term relationship with girlfriend and editor Loïs for good. Certainly not too proud to beg, Anne calls from a pay phone after a night of drinking, but Loïs insists they remain work colleagues only.

A blonde woman in a black leather trench coat stands in a phone booth at night, looking down dejectedly.

Meanwhile, at one of the top surreal gay nightclubs of Paris, one of Anne’s young stars catches the eye of a man in a dark mask that covers his face completely. Though things start on a kinky note, they take a turn for the ominous when the masked figure brings out a dildo that’s also a switchblade.

In a dark night club illuminated in blue, a young man looks off into the distance while dancing with a group of men.

Anne is rather unfazed, prowling a local quarry for another young gay star–or at least a man who has no qualms about performing gay sex on camera for the right price. So unmoved by actor Karl’s death is Anne that she even finds inspiration in his death for her next film, Anal Fury V…a reference to Karl being stabbed in the rear. The crew finds this all to be in rather poor taste.

After the murder of another of Anne’s regular actors (featuring a white-eyed grackle or possibly crow depending on the translation), the cast and crew is properly freaked the fuck out. However, Anne merely retitles the film Homocidal, determined to finish her greatest work yet and impress the hell out of Loïs. Unfortunately, it seems that Loïs has moved on with another woman, leaving Anne to drink alone at an incredibly surreal lesbian club.

Loïs, a white woman wearing a sheer dark dress, dances in a nightclub with a Black woman wearing a metallic dress.

When the filming is complete, Anne hosts a wrap party, aka an opportunity to wait around for Loïs to arrive. Soon after Loïs arrives, a white-eyed grackle lands on her shoulder, and a dramatic wind storm cuts the party short. As the party attendees flee, an actor left behind becomes another victim of the masked killer.

Following Loïs home, Anne confronts her ex, demanding that she continue to love her. Anne sexually assaults Loïs and, the next day, her former lover disappears and asks to be left alone.

When Anne learns of the latest death of one of her actors, she confronts the police about the absence of any leads whatsoever. Taking pity, a young police officer gives Anne a feather that has been found at each crime scene. As it turns out, the feathers come from…a white-eyed grackle, hailing from a forest in rural France, and supposedly victims of extinction hundreds of years ago.

To uncover the truth, cityslicker Anne packs her bags and heads to smalltown France. Will she discover the identity of the killer or just find a forest full of creepy birds?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

In the earlier segments of the film, I was confused and frustrated enough that I probably would have multi-tasked for the remainder of the film if it hadn’t been subtitled. There are a lot of artistic decisions here that come across as the work of auteur who thinks it’s your problem if you don’t understand their vision. Oh, you didn’t understand the oranges as a representation of the loss of childhood innocence and their evocation of early Russian silent films? That’s on you.

That being said, even if enjoyment doesn’t quite describe my feelings about this one, I admire the ambition. I don’t particularly like our lead, especially since she sexually assaults someone and claims it was love, but I’m ok with not liking Anne a whole lot. From a thematic perspective, the concept of becoming monstrous in the name of love draws a parallel between Anne’s actions, those of masked killer Guy, and even the actions of his father.

Appropriately, the cinematography is gorgeous and chaotic, playing with film noir blues and violent reds, as well as soft daylight glow.

I did find the look into some considerations of the porn industry at the time pretty fascinating. Interestingly, Anne takes pride in the artistic element of her work, and wants to create gay porn with a unique spin. Not to give the porn industry a free pass on a lot of its exploitative/problematic practices, but it’s nice that there’s no shame here for the cast and crew, and there’s even a sense of professional pride. That’s not the perspective we get about porn crews in a lot of other works.

In the end, I didn’t expect to find the unraveling of Guy’s story to be quite so moving. I wouldn’t call Guy a sympathetic figure, but the past does color his actions with tragedy and create a surprisingly emotional conclusion to our film. It has to be intentional that the setting is 1979, setting the stage for the AIDS crisis just a few years later.

Btw, if you’re just here for an extended and quite artistically shot orgy scene, skip to the last 5 minutes of the film.

Would my blog wife cast this one in a porn film immediately or leave it to a forest of white-eyed grackles? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Spinster, or: A Yarn about Knitting

It’s a good feeling to cross things off the watchlist, particularly in advance of the Oscars. Even though the only things I have to do are pay for streaming subscriptions and sit down to watch films, there’s still a nice feeling of setting a goal and meeting it. That being said, April was an intense viewing month on the Blog Collab, and we are now very much looking forward to a more low-key May. Unless we change our minds.

The Film:

Spinster

The Premise:

Dumped on her 39th birthday, a single woman considers what it means to be a spinster…and whether such an existence is really so tragic.

The Ramble:

As a bride-to-be recounts the impossibly romantic, life-changing moment she met her future husband, caterer Gaby has already decided the hassle isn’t worth it to serve at this wedding. A champion of dead-pan sarcasm, Gaby’s cynical take on marriage is infuriating enough for the bride to storm off in a huff, leaving us to wonder how our protagonist ever manages to paste on a smile long enough to book events.

Gaby, a woman with brown hair in braids, sits in a commercial kitchen, 3 plates of food she has made in front of her.

Gaby’s lack of empathy on this particular day is in large part due to her 39th birthday, a reminder that she is rapidly approaching 40 with no partner, children, or direction in her life. When she returns home, Gaby finds her boyfriend packing up all of his things and moving out. This sends Gaby into a panic–though she insists she doesn’t need marriage to be happy, she spends a worrying amount of time on dating apps.

Meanwhile, Gabby struggles to connect with the people in her life. She spends time with her bff Amanda, but only when running errands with the kids or attending horrible couples dinner parties. Neighbor Callie seems helpful and friendly, but Gaby is too wrapped up in her own troubles to notice an extended olive branch. And when it comes to Gaby’s family…let’s just say those relationships are fraught. Since her mother’s death several years ago, Gaby retains a lot of anger towards her father, who spent a lot of the marriage having various affairs. What’s more, Gaby’s brother Alex is a narcissist convinced he’s a comic genius as he navigates a messy divorce and custody battle.

Gaby sits on the couch across from her friend, who is folding laundry as they talk.

In short, Gaby is exactly the kind of character whose life is never going to change unless something shakes it up. The catalyst in this instance is a change in the custody agreement for Alex’s daughter Adele. Now, Gaby will need to take care of Adele while Alex pursues his stand-up comedy dreams on Thursday evenings (barf).

Around the same time, Gaby gets fed up with dating apps. At Amanda’s suggestions, she unsuccessfully pursues a (married, oops) chiropractor and joins a casual softball team to meet dudes. She even checks out dudes as Adele rock climbs, all to no avail. After yet another date that goes well initially but ends in disappointment, Gaby shifts gears and begins searching for the dog she’s always wanted but never adopted.

Gaby rests on a couch, reading, as a dog snuggles next to her.

In a fortuitous turn of events, Gaby’s father finally acknowledges that it’s very possible that she will never marry. Since he spent $40,000 on her sister’s wedding, he decides to give Gaby a comparable sum in the name of fairness. Gaby has always wanted to open a restaurant, and having a sizeable amount of money to get started gives her the opportunity to realize this dream.

While Gaby works to establish a restaurant, she builds a life that looks very different from the vision of her spinster aunt smoking 2 packs a day and dying alone in a bathtub. Getting to know her neighbor, joining a knitting group, spending one-on-one time with her bff, bonding with her niece–Gaby seems to have it all figured out. When she meets a lost hiker while out for a walk, will Gaby reconsider?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I like this one a lot. It’s a bit mild and inoffensive at times, and I wish it had pushed some of its ideas a little bit further. However, it really fit the bill in terms of giving our brains a break, and no arguments here at all on the message and themes. It’s refreshing to see a single woman navigating her place in the world without a rom-com message along the lines of “when you are a single woman who learns to love yourself, a moderately attractive man will love you too, and at last your life will no longer be the empty shell devoid of meaning that it was merely days ago.” I love how at peace Gaby becomes with the idea of living the single life and creating her own sense of meaning and purpose. Chelsea Peretti’s dead-pan performance is perfect here, and watching her character grow is sweet without being overly sappy. The film is spot-on about getting older being a triumph as well.

Major criticism that prevented this from being a 4-star review: the huge amount of privilege Gaby has that the film never really acknowledges. The way it’s presented when her dad gifts Gaby with a $40,000 check, it’s a fucking normal thing for families to do. It’s not an expectation I have that any member of my family will ever give me $40,000 for any reason–and even if it were, it’s never going to happen. If you’re reading this and anyone in your family has ever given you $40,000 or more, please tell me if you’re currently accepting new family members into the fold. That plot element took me out of the story, as well as the overall lack of conflict in the film. The film could have done a better job of being inclusive, as the characters of color are in minor roles and we get a mere glimpse of LGBTQ representation. Some of Gaby’s arguments in favor of singlehood for women come from a place of privilege too, though it’s still satisfying to see her shut down some extremely dated/patriarchal talking points.

Despite some criticism, this film really fit the bill in terms of what I wanted to see onscreen at the moment, and helped fill the void of female-driven films that aren’t focused entirely on romantic storylines. Gaby’s relationship with Adele is handled really well too; I don’t always love a film that hinges on a character playing surrogate parent to a child as a transformative experience. In this situation, I enjoyed the aunt/niece dynamic, and that Gaby felt it was important for Adele to learn to communicate her interests and be able to say no.

Would my blog wife cater a lovely wedding or funeral for this one or send it off without even an hors d’oeuvre sample? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Sound of Metal, or: Drumming up Support

We’ve really gone the full gamut of human emotion this month: from plucky determination to existential dread to pure cynicism. Luckily, we’re ending the month on a high note with a film that’s maybe not a barrel of laughs, though it does promise not to be entirely bleak. And, honestly, it checks off the Riz Ahmed requirement that’s an automatic add to the queue for…almost everyone, I imagine?

The Film:

Sound of Metal

The Premise:

Losing his hearing, a heavy-metal drummer grapples with the possibility that his future may unfold much differently from the one he anticipated.

The Ramble:

The drummer in a heavy-metal band fronted by his girlfriend Lou, Ruben may not be rich, but he’s carved out a happy life for himself. Following some success, the band Blackgammon is touring and even signing a record deal. Now sober for 4 years, Ruben feels loved and accepted for the first time in his life, offering support in return to former self-harming Lou.

Ruben, a young man with bleached hair and a chest covered in tattoos, plays the drums onstage while shirtless.

Though Ruben is having trouble hearing the words Lou sings during their gigs, he’s quick to shrug this off. I mean, you don’t listen to metal for the clear enunciation of vowel sounds. However, as Ruben intermittently loses his hearing on and off the stage, he can no longer ignore the problem. After seeing a doctor in secret, Ruben learns that his hearing has deteriorated so much that he misses 70 to 80% of spoken words. The doctor’s advice to avoid further damage to Ruben’s hearing? Eliminate exposure to loud noise. Yeah, ain’t gonna happen.

Ruben continues to live his life as if nothing has changed, becoming laser focused on the possibility of hearing implants, which cost an unspeakably large sum and are not covered by health insurance. However, when Ruben can’t hear at all during a gig, he can no longer hide from Lou that his hearing is nearly gone.

In a rainy diner, Lou, a woman with long dark blonde hair, talks on the phone while sitting next to Ruben, who looks annoyed.

Upon learning of Ruben’s condition, Lou immediately calls his sponsor. On his recommendation, they find a rehab center for the deaf and hard of hearing, managed by Joe, a recovering alcoholic who is deaf. To stay at the center, Ruben must go it alone without Lou or even any contact with her. Afraid of losing the love of his life and accepting a new reality, Ruben resists…until Lou buys a plane ticket to stay with her father in Paris, leaving Ruben with no other option but to give it a go.

As Ruben navigates his new existence, the goal fueling him is to fix his hearing, reunite with Lou, and return to his life before hearing loss. He’s given one job at the center: to learn how to be deaf. Despite his reluctance to embrace life at the center, Ruben begins to bond with the members of the community, including the children he begins teaching to play drums. But Joe still feels Ruben is holding onto a need to “fix” his perceived disability and is unable to sit and appreciate silence.

Sitting around a table sharing food, Ruben communicates animatedly using ASL with those around him.

Eventually, Ruben is given the choice to stay at the rehab center or opt for implants that may restore his hearing and help him go back to the life he had before. But if Ruben had seen even one Bill & Ted movie or had one stoned conversation about killing baby Hitler, he would have realized the impossibility of ever going back.

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I appreciate a lot about this film. The tone is subtle but effective; we certainly know Ruben has a difficult journey ahead, but we never get the feeling that all hope is lost. I can’t personally address the portrayal of the deaf community, but there has been overall a positive reaction to its depiction here. I enjoy the levels at play as well; the story works as a meaningful reflection on navigating circumstances beyond your control and adapting with some measure of grace to new ways of living and experiencing the world. A message I can appreciate if not apply to my own life.

What held me back slightly in my rating was the lack of narrative structure. Ruben’s struggle to accept his life as it is–all of the torment and back-and-forth agony–feels realistic, but it’s very frustrating at times. You most likely have some idea of how the film ends based on its tone and approach (along with all of the reviews about this as an uplifting story), so there are stages where it’s difficult not to will Ruben to get his shit together faster. However, this is also an approach that makes the last scenes feel earned and satisfactory. What can I say? Always a critic.

The performances are great (Riz Ahmed in particular carries this film), and I was happy to see the editing and sound crew receive Oscar wins for their work. Though I found the performances compelling, I didn’t always feel the supporting characters seemed real. Almost every character seems to exist to support Ruben on his journey, which is…nice? But at times took me out of the story.

Would my blog wife embrace this one with open arms or smash it in a rage like it’s fancy sound equipment? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Promising Young Woman, or: You Know That You’re Toxic

CW: sexual assault

Phew, this month has been a solid reminder that films getting award nominations or buzz aren’t here to play. It’s been a rewarding but intense month on the Collab, and this week is no exception. Our pick this week aligns so well with some of the themes we most enjoy here and that we’ve been looking forward to reviewing for months. Will we love what this one does…even if it’s toxic?

The Film:

Promising Young Woman

The Premise:

Years after her best friend’s assault at a party, a medical school dropout seeks vengeance against the people and systems that failed her.

The Ramble:

It’s tough being a business bro these days, isn’t it? You can’t schmooze your clients at the strip club or even go to the men only golf club for meetings with all of those pesky women coworkers around. Not like the good ol’ days.

As they bemoan their plight, a group of aforementioned bros notice a woman so drunk she can barely remain conscious where she sits. While a couple of the guys joke about taking advantage of the woman’s state, ahem, “nice guy” Jerry approaches under the guise of ensuring she makes it home safely. Because the woman has lost her phone, she can’t use a rideshare app, and Jerry gallantly offers to share an Uber-like but not Uber ride home. Of course, the ride ends up at Jerry’s apartment, where he invites the woman up for a drink. Though she is on the brink of passing out and repeatedly asks what Jerry is doing, he is determined to take advantage of the situation…until the woman lets him know very clearly that she is perfectly sober.

In a nightclub featuring red furniture, a man sits next to Cassie, a blonde woman who appears to be very intoxicated.

The woman in this situation is Cassie, a former medical school student who acts out this saga nearly every night–most memorably with a coked-out novelist who insists that he’s such a nice guy. Why? Because during a party that many of the med school cohort attended, Cassie’s best friend Nina was raped, disbelieved, and dropped out of school. The events destroyed the futures of two promising young women, as Cassie dropped out soon after to care for her traumatized friend, who ultimately killed herself.

By day, Cassie lives a rather bleak life, to the point that she forgets her own 30th birthday. Living at home with her parents and working in a coffee shop, her parents and boss Gail worry that Cassie has no friends and no interests…beyond keeping color-coded tally of her evening activities in a notebook under her bed.

In a pink and blue pastel coffee shop called Make Me Coffee, Cassie and her supervisor, a Black woman with long curly hair, serve a customer.

Out of the blue, Ryan, a guy from Cassie’s med school class, stops in at the coffee shop and recognizes his former classmate. Now a doctor, Ryan clumsily admits that he had a crush on Cassie during school and always wondered why she dropped out. Though Cassie is skeptical, she eventually agrees to a lunch date with Ryan. As a bonus, Cassie learns about the exploits of her former classmates, including a former friend’s recent delivery of twins, and Nina’s rapist, Al, preparing for his upcoming wedding.

Cassie, wearing a white dress covered in roses, sits in a diner booth across from Ryan, a man wearing glasses and a plaid shirt.

Though Cassie finds Ryan’s awkward earnestness sweet, their relationship moves with stops and starts as she navigates giving a functional relationship a go. However, the surprisingly sweet rom-com style romance (including the mandatory karaoke-inspired scene) takes a definite backseat to Cassie’s schemes. With more information about her former classmates, she hones in on those who failed Nina the most: former friend Madison who didn’t believe Nina’s story, the dean who dismissed Nina’s claims, the lawyer who pressured Nina to drop her case, and, of course, Al.

Cassie has some pretty twisted schemes up her sleeve for those who have wronged Nina, including setting Madison up to wake up in a hotel room with a strange man and no memory of what’s happened, as well as making Dean Blackwell believe her daughter is alone at a wild frat party. Using the same logic that condemned Nina, Cassie’s vengeance underscores the dangers of dismissing victims’ accounts while giving the benefit of the doubt to abusers.

Cassie empties the last of a bottle of wine into a glass for Madison, a woman with short dark hair, over a restaurant table.

Briefly, Cassie seems to embrace the advice of Nina’s mother to move on at last. But can Cassie really set aside her revenge plans when she still has her biggest fish to fry in the form of Al? After Madison reveals one of Al’s friends made a video of Nina’s assault, Cassie learns some new details that unleash a fresh wave of rage. Striding into Al’s bachelor party as a sexy nurse accompanied by a killer instrumental version of Britney Spears’s “Toxic,” you know it’s going to be a memorable evening…though perhaps not in the ways anticipated.

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

There’s so much to like about this film. The themes that interrogate rape culture, complicity, and the failure of justice are powerful and very rarely receive much attention on film. I wonder if the persistent underrepresentation of women and people of color in director roles is at play here. *Shrug* And, truly, we are not worthy of the soundtrack and the beautiful, glossy colors contrasting with the awful behavior of the characters. I’m so happy to see Carey Mulligan onscreen again, and I can’t find fault with any of the performances, honestly. The dialogue is so sharp and made me laugh out loud at times.

However, there are some inconsistencies that prevent this film from being a new favorite for me. There are a lot of times this is frustrating to watch, as there are virtually no likeable characters here. If, like me, your cynical mind is always at work, you won’t be overly surprised by this…but you may still be annoyed that some characters are very close to doing the right thing only to easily backtrack into the convenient thing.

I feel like another broken record on the internet at this point, but I do take issue with the film’s ending as well, largely because of the abrupt tonal shift. There are some issues with tone throughout, as there are a lot of times during Cassie’s scenes with Ryan that we seem to be in a charming romantic comedy. We also get a number of satisfying revenge scenes with Cassie’s self-assured swagger, though admittedly some of her tactics are more unsettling than anything else. But both of these concepts give way to a bleak ending that really pulls the rug out from under the viewer and gives us the most dramatic tonal shift yet. It’s unsatisfying to feel that Cassie is a victim when she begins the film by reclaiming some degree of power, even though I suppose she is pulling the strings in the end. I can’t help feeling that if Billy Loomis can fake his own death in Scream, surely a scheming med school dropout could have done the same (does a spoiler from a 1996 movie count as a spoiler?).

I will say I got a lot of enjoyment from this film and will make plans to see Emerald Fennell’s next picture as soon as possible.

Would my darling blog wife plot an elaborate revenge scheme on this one’s behalf or pretend it never happened at all? Find out in her review!